The power of brainstorming

Brainstorming is a key component of business that every company should undertake.

Brainstorming is a key component of business that every company should undertake.

Have you ever heard of ‘hero leadership’? I heard this the other day, and it took me back to when I was a young salesperson and all the speeches I listened to that wowed me. However, many times after these speeches I walked away thinking, ‘what am I supposed to do with this?’

Have you found yourself as a leader giving a speech, and your audience seem to be engaged and connected, but nothing was achieved afterwards? I have made this very mistake. Because of this, I have had to ask myself, what did I miss?

The problem was that there were no next steps. The ‘what’ and ‘why’ was in the speech but not the ‘how’ and ‘who’.  Your staff know what their jobs are, but many times they do not know what their role is to help you make this vision/ or idea happen.

So, I began to conduct workshops with my staff. I started with ‘why’ (feeling), ‘how’ (feeling) and ‘what’ (rational thought). The key is communication before, during, and afterwards. It is important to create area workshops and start the workflow from the beginning to end, record the sessions, and get someone to document whilst you facilitate.

Once you have been through the divisions put it all together and get the key stakeholders from each area to go through the entire workflow for the business. There are so many benefits for this, especially for the newbies, as it enables them to see the business holistically.

Facilitating a brainstorming session

Stage 1: If you can analyse your business, look at all the touch points – how many touch points, by whom, then reason, outline the impacts – what seems to be working and what isn’t working, and the costs associated, wastage, labour etc. This should be your driver to creating a brainstorming session.

Stage 2: Organise and send out a meeting request with an agenda to the relevant parties, this will depend on the size of your organisation who you will ask to attend.  Organise food and drinks (non-alcoholic) as this allows people to become more comfortable in this environment as you want them to be able to speak freely so make this a point.

Agenda: The agenda should outline what your vision/mission of the business is and why this workshop is happening – what should they expect and what is expected of them. This will make them comfortable and get them thinking about their current tasks and how they can add value to this brainstorming session.

Stage 3: Set the scene, start with the hero speech “what and why”, then finish with the “how and who”. Get this right and you should get exactly what you need.

Remember, the fastest and quickest way to get to where you need to be will be through staff. They have the answers, you just need to unlock them. I recommend you start with the workflow from beginning to end and break down the tasks associated with it.

Use post it notes to list these tasks so you can move them around later when you realise the tasks are sitting in the wrong area or they need not be tasks – it outlines the impacts.

Workflows work because:

  • It helps people to think about the way they go about their daily tasks.
  • Collaboration as a group helps shift the participants’ mindsets where they may not have shifted before, this opens for some great input from the team
  • Workshops give each team member a sense of ownership of their task as they feel not just part of the problem but more importantly contributors to the solution.
  • You gain an understanding of everyone’s skillsets

These brainstorming workshops help the facilitator, manager/leader understand their audience, not judge them but understand their skillset, where they need to be, and will allow you and them to start planning and measuring how the business will achieve the outcomes needed.

A true leader understands their staff as individuals, what they need from you to achieve their/the business goals. This is where you will always win as it is your people that make things happen.

From here you can write a plan or scope of works and break down the tasks and responsibilities throughout the business, everybody is now accountable as they will understand the workflow of the business and how they impact their colleagues if they don’t own their part.

Susan Crane is a business consultant and CEO of Crane Consulting. Crane will be presenting at the ISSA Cleaning & Hygiene Expo in Sydney on 12-13 October  www.craneconsults.com.au

This article first appeared in the March/April issue of INCLEAN magazine 

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